Travelers in Santa Clara County advised to check their vaccination status before international trips

Officials with the Santa Clara County Health Department advise international travelers to make sure they’re up-to-date with measles vaccinations. This after that county saw its fourth confirmed case of the disease earlier this month. Officials say the vaccination rate is very high in the county, currently around 90 percent. But the current known cases all involve international travelers who were not vaccinated, so an alert is going out to those travelling by plane. 

Mineta San Jose International sees a dozen international flights daily. The possibility of measles infection is on the mind of many flyers.

“Everyone protects everyone else if we all get vaccinated,” said Joe Davis, as he headed for his flight to Southern California. 

Monday, Santa Clara County Health department officials began advising all international travelers to check their vaccination status before leaving on their trips.

“If you’re not sure you can ask your doctor for a recommendation. Your doctor can do a blood test to see if you’re immune. Or they may just give you another shot. Because even if you’ve had the shot before, getting another shot won’t hurt,” said Dr. George Han, the deputy health officer for the Santa Clara County Health Dept.

Measles is a highly contagious virus that has been largely prevented in the U.S. through vaccinations. An infected person can spread the virus even before they become symptomatic, and others are at risk from seven-to-21 days after exposure.

In March, an international tourist infected with measles visited nearly two dozen places around the county. And in mid-April, a Google employee was diagnosed with measles after visiting the company’s campus. There are nine cases currently in the Bay Area, and over 700 nationally.

“We clearly are going to have additional measles cases this year,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, of the Center for Disease Control & Prevention.

Health officials say vaccination is the best method to prevent the spread of measles, with a 97% effect rate. Even if a person was vaccinated as a child, they’re chances of becoming infected are extremely small. 

“Anytime a measles virus comes about, your immune system can react to it to protect your body. Even if it was a long time ago. You have these memory cells in your blood that last for a lifetime. And so these memory cells and immune cells are produced when you get the measles vaccine, and they circulate in your body your whole life,” said Dr. Han.

Federal health officials say some adults inoculated between 1963 and 1967 may not be protected from the virus. Doctors say those patients should get a booster. It’s a step Joe Davis took recently.

“Had them as a child, and then you get the extra, the booster, to make sure you don’t get it later when you’re older,” said Davis.

County health officials say measles vaccinations are available via your healthcare provider, some pharmacies, and through the health department. If you’re unsure of your vaccination status, contact your doctor – especially before heading on any international travel.